Uncertain Futures Adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the Lake Victoria Basin Gabrielsson, Sara

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Uncertain Futures

Adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the Lake Victoria Basin Gabrielsson, Sara


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Gabrielsson, S. (2012). Uncertain Futures: Adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the Lake Victoria Basin. [Doctoral Thesis (compilation), LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)].

Lund University Centre for Sustainability Science.

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Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies


Uncertain futures


Lund Dissertation in Sustainability Science No. 3


Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability

ISBN 978-91-7473-310-5


Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability

ISBN 978-91-7473-310-5


Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies

Lund Dissertation in Sustainability Science No. 3

Uncertain futures





LUCID is a Linnaeus Centre at Lund University. It is funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, comprises six disciplines from three faculties and is coordinated by LUCSUS as a faculty independent research centre.

Research aims at the integration of social and natural dimensions of sustainability in the context of grand sustainability challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and land use change.

The scope is broad, the ambition is bold and the modes of operation are collaborative. Over the course of ten years we will develop sustainability as a research field from multidisciplinarity to interdisciplinarity to transdisciplinarity.


Lund University Centre for Excellence for

Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability

Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science

1. Barry Ness: Sustainability of the Swedish sugar sector: assessment tool development and case study appraisal (2008)

2. Karin Steen: Time to farm: A qualitative inquiry into the dynamics of the gender regime of land and labour rights in subsistence farming:

an example from the Chiweshe communal area, Zimbabwe (2011) 3. Sara Gabrielsson: Uncertain futures: Adaptive capacities to climate

variability and change in the Lake Victoria Basin (2012)


Centre for Sustainability Studies Lu

Sustainability is not about something to be solved

but about something to be lived


Author’s e-mail address:


© 2012 Sara Gabrielsson ISBN: 978-91-7473-310-5

Cover design and photo: Sara Gabrielsson Graphics: Ann Åkerman

Printed in Sweden by Tryckeriet i E-huset, Lund 2012


I dedicate this work to

Nancy, and all other women

across the global south, who, like her, relentlessly strive to provide and care

for their families despite all the challenges facing them.

Photo 1-2. Nancy with Agnes in her lap in 2008 (Left). Me and Agnes in 2011 together with Nancy’s kids; Stella, Stanley and Johannes (Right). Gabrielsson, a.k.a. “Gabby” is missing in the photograph. (Photo by Andreas Gabrielsson, 2008-11)


and every other child in the world, who, like her, deserve to inherit a planet where sustainability and equality is common sense and practice,

not merely fancy academic rhetoric and discourse.



The Lake Victoria basin (LVB) in East Africa can be considered a climate change hotspot because of its large rural population dependent on rain-fed farming. Drawing on extensive fieldwork (2007-2011) in rural communities along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania, I explore adaptive capacities to climate variability and change and discuss how they interrelate in situ. Using multiple methods, tools and techniques, including survey and rainfall data, individual and group interviews, interactive mapping of seasonal calendars and a multi-stakeholder workshop, I locate the place-based effects and responses to a number of converging climate induced stressors on smallholder farmers’ wellbeing and natural resources. Research findings show that adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the LVB are complex, dynamic and characterized by high location-specificity, thereby signifying the value of using an integrative and place-based approach to understand climate vulnerability. Specifically, the study demonstrates how increased unpredictability in rainfall causes chronic livelihood stress illustrated by recurring and worsening periods of food insecurity, growing cash dependency and heavy disease burdens. The study also reveals that food and income buffers increase when and where farmers, particularly women farmers, collectively respond to climate induced stressors through deliberate strategies rooted in a culture of saving and planning. Nevertheless, the study concludes that smallholders in the LVB are facing a highly uncertain future with discernible, yet differentiated adaptation deficits, due to chronic livelihood stress driven by unequal access to fundamental adaptive capacities such as land, health, cash and collective networks.

Keywords: adaptive capacities, climate vulnerability, collective action, Lake Victoria Basin, smallholder farmers, sustainable adaptation, sustainability science.




List of abbreviations and acronyms List of articles

Chapter 1. Introduction p. 11

Study aim and research questions Topic and study location rationale Research scope and limitations Structure of the thesis

Chapter 2. Conceptual framework p. 18 Climate vulnerability

Adaptation Adaptive capacities Sustainable adaptation

Chapter 3. Research approach and process p. 27 Doing sustainability science

Research design and strategy Fieldwork methods

Data analysis and integration Ensuring research quality

Chapter 4. Study context and setting p. 42 History matters – old and new realities for smallholders

The landscape of the Lake Victoria basin

People and livelihoods in the Lake Victoria basin

Chapter 5. Synthesis and contributions to current debates p. 54 Chapter 6. A concluding remark on Sustainability Science p. 60


Articles 1-3


6 Appendices

Appendix 1 – Exploratory Household Questionnaire Appendix 2 – Stakeholder workshop set-up and agenda Appendix 3 – Workshop Declaration


Figure 1. Primary and secondary study sites in the LVB Figure 2. Conceptual and spatial focus of the three articles Figure 3. Compound elements of climate vulnerability

Figure 4. Conceptual overview of vulnerability-poverty linkages Figure 5. Annual rainfall variability 1951/59-2007/08

Figure 6. Constraints to sustainable adaptation in the LVB Table 1. Data collection strategy 2007-2011


Photo 1-2. Nancy and Agnes in 2008 and 2011

Photo 3-4. Focus groups with female farmers in Kakola and Onjiko, Kenya Photo 5-6. Focus group introductions in Kisumwa, Tanzania

Photo 7-8. Discussing seasonal calendars in Kunsugu, Tanzania Photo 9. Primary freshwater source in Thurdibuoro, Kenya

Photo 10. Article 1 preface - View of a homestead in Mara, Tanzania Photo 11. Article 2 preface - Happy child in Kunsugu, Tanzania Photo 12. Article 3 preface - On the road in Mara, Tanzania




This research endeavour would not have been possible without the support, encouragement and assistance from a number of people along the way.

I am first and foremost indebted to Andreas, who have not only supported me emotionally throughout this almost 6 year journey but also physically by being there to shoulder my part of our shared parental responsibility, when I could not. You have always encouraged me to carry on, even when I found no reason to. Your enthusiasm and interest in my work has challenged me to become a better researcher. I know that despite the many emotional hardships this journey has caused us, in the end it has also contributed to making our relationship stronger by building on our mutual respect for one another. You and Agnes are and will forever be the ultimate reason for why I keep on going.

In East Africa I would like to thank all those people who assisted me in the field, especially, Benson Gudu, Nancy Otiende and Deus Cosmos as well as Aluther Kamugunda, Nancy Genga, Audax Kahyoza and Victor Okoth Ochieng.

At VI-Agroforestry in Kisumu and Musoma several people have supported this project in one way or another. Those who deserve particular mentioning are: Bo Lager, Wangu Mutua, Pamela Abila, Ylva Nyberg, Amos Wekesa, Björn Horvath, Neema Kitila, Gabriel Songa, Michael Wamalwa. Special thanks also to Henric, Jenny, Siri, Ellen and Karl Brundin who let me stay at their house in Musoma to keep me safe from malaria carrying mosquitoes while I was pregnant.

In Lund I want to thank my supervisors; Anne Jerneck and Lennart Olsson.

Anne, I am so grateful for all your relentless support, both academically and personally. Lennart, thanks for seeing my research potential and always believing in my ability to finish. I also want to extend my gratitude toward my co-authors; Elina Andersson, Sara Brogaard, Anne Jerneck and Vasna Ramasar, whose collaboration not only have made me a better writer but also convinced me that I actually have something to say.

I am also thankful for my office mates at LUCSUS; Torsten Krause, Bodil Elmqvist, Anna Kaijser, Yengoh Tambang and Cheryl Sjöström for keeping my

spirits up even when things got rough.



Thanks also to those who have commented or reviewed my work, especially Barry Ness, Christine Wamsler, Mine Islar, Sandra Valencia, Molly McGregor, Stefan Anderberg, Kimberly Nicholas and numerous anonymous reviewers.

I have also received vital collegial support both on and off work from Johanna Bergman-Lodin, Andrea Nardi, Mabel Hungwe, Stefan Anderberg, Ann Åkerman, Ingegerd Ehn, Cecilia Kardum-Smith, Amanda Elgh, Maryam Nastar and Melissa Hansen.

Thanks also for generous financial support from; The European Union through ‘Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies- Supporting European Climate Policy (ADAM)’, Sida through funds for the research project on ‘Livelihoods and Climate Change Vulnerability in the Lake Victoria Basin -Visioning Future Adaptive Strategies through Participatory Methods’, The Swedish Research Council Formas, The Crafoord Foundation, The Gösta and Märta Moberg Research Fund, The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, Lund

University and Lund City Jubilee Foundation.

To my oldest friend Karin Fransson I want to say, thank you for always being there and lending me your ear. I know you always believed that I could do this, I am so happy to say that you were right.

Finally, my deepest gratitude and respect goes out to the many farmers that willingly have participated in this study in Kenya and Tanzania, especially the farmer groups in Kunsugu, Kisumwa, Thurdibuoro and Onjiko. Thank you all

for inviting me into your homes and allowing me to take part of your lives.

I admire all your collective efforts to shape a better future for yourself.

Ero Kamano - Asante Sana.

Malmö, April 2012 Sara Gabrielsson



Abbreviations and acronyms

ACTS African Centre for Technology Studies

CEEST Centre for Energy, Environmnet, Science and Technology COP Conference of the Parties

EAC East Africa Community EHS Exploratory Household Survey ENSO El-Nino Southern Oscillation FGD Focus Group Discussions HES Human-Environment System(s)

ILRI International Livestock Research Institute ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre

IPCC International Panel on Climate Change KMA Kenya Meteorological Agency

LVB Lake Victoria Basin

NGO Non-governmental Organization SAP Structural Adjustment Program

Sida Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency SS Sustainability Science

SSA Sub-Saharan Africa

TMS Tanzania Meteorological Services

UNEP United Nations Environment Programme

UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change URT United Republic of Tanzania

Vi-AFP VI Agroforestry Programme



Articles and work contributions

This PhD thesis consists of the following three articles:

I. Gabrielsson, S., Brogaard, S and A. Jerneck (2012) ’Living without buffers – Illustrating climate vulnerability in the Lake Victoria Basin’

manuscript submitted to Sustainability Science. Under review.

II. Andersson, E. and S. Gabrielsson (2012) ’Because of poverty we had to come together- Collective action as a pathway to improved food security in rural Kenya and Uganda’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2012.666029 III. Gabrielsson, S., V. Ramasar (2012) ’Widows: agents of change in a

climate of water uncertainty’ Journal of Cleaner Production, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.01.034

The work contributions of the authors are described below.

I. Gabrielsson structured and wrote the paper with contributions from Brogaard and Jerneck. The article draws on data collected by Gabrielsson and Brogaard in 2009 and 2010, as well as data collected by Gabrielsson in 2007, 2008 and 2011.

II. Andersson and Gabrielsson contributed equally to the article by combining separately collected data from their respective study sites in Uganda and Kenya, compiling and analyzing it in conjunction and then writing the paper together.

III. Gabrielsson structured the paper and then wrote it with inputs from Ramasar. Gabrielsson collected, compiled and analyzed all the data from 2007-2011.



1. Introduction

Sub-Saharan African (SSA) is viewed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially changes in rainfall (Vogel, 2000; IPCC, 2007). Several factors contribute to this vulnerability, among other things, a large rural population highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture coupled with structural problems of chronic poverty, food and livelihood insecurity and socio- economic and political inequality (Vogel, 2000; Ikeme, 2003, IPCC, 2007;

Tschakert and Dietrich, 2010). Coping with and adapting to climate variations is not a new phenomenon for farmers in SSA, indeed it has been an ongoing process for centuries (Tyson et al., 2002). The difference today however, is that global climate change is likely to exacerbate already hard livelihood conditions, due in part to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the anticipated changes and the probability and severity of increased extreme weather events (Ikeme, 2003).

For the majority of smallholder farmers inhabiting the Lake Victoria basin (LVB), life is invariably a struggle. Reliance on rain-fed agriculture to sustain major food and income needs, poor infrastructure and weak market access in addition to unequal social relations, hamper abilities to live a full and healthy life and buffer themselves against and rebound from the impacts of climate related stressors (Ribot, 2009). This complex and uncertain reality poses obvious challenges to the lives and futures of smallholders, but also to researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders concerned with ways to reduce these struggles now and in the future.

The LVB, shared by Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi is not only home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s most densely populated and poorest rural farming communities it also has tremendous significance as a climate modulator for the entire East African region (UNEP, 2006). As such, the LVB is a suitable location for an integrative study on adaptive capacities to climate variability and change informed by sustainability science, due to its emphasis on understanding coupled human-environmental systems (HES) (Clark, 2007).

While there still remains a lot of uncertainty in the regional climate change predictions for the LVB (UNEP, 2006; Kizza et al., 2009) some of the expected repercussions of climate change for East Africa include increased rainfall, flooding, runoff and incidence of disease in wetter areas, worsening



droughts, erosion and crop failures in drier areas (MLWE, 2002, URT, 2003;

IPCC, 2007; Olago et al., 2007; Dinar et al., 2008; Odada et al., 2009;

Thornton et al., 2010). And even though rural dwellers the LVB may have the ability to cope with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation patterns in the future, the increased incidence of erratic rainfall in the basin in recent years (Kizza et al., 2009) are exposing people to new conditions that may be difficult to avoid and prepare for. Consequently, understanding how people here are vulnerable is important, not only to future climatic changes but also to present climate variability, because of its potential to improve livelihood security and contribute to sustainable adaptation.

Using a place-based approach, through documenting the processes of change, in primarily four rural communities in the LVB of Kenya and Tanzania, this thesis explores how smallholder farmers experience and manage changing livelihood conditions induced by climate variability and change. To that end the thesis seeks to examine both exogenous threats to farmer livelihoods and wellbeing as well as the endogenous adaptive capacity that farmers have to manage such threats (Preston et al., 2011) in an attempt to downscale global climate change into a local context where it is experienced.

Study aim and research questions

The aim of this thesis is to critically examine the exogenous threats of climate variability and change on smallholder farming livelihoods and the endogenous adaptive capacity that farmers have to manage such threats, with a particular focus on ways to improve sustainable adaptation in the future.

Three research questions guide this inquiry:

1) How are smallholder livelihoods affected by climate variability and change?

2) What capacities do smallholders employ to cope with and/or adapt to climate variability and change?

3) How are smallholders’ adaptive capacities facilitated or impeded by present socio-structural and economic processes?


13 Topic and study location rationale

Doing sustainability science (SS) is quite different from doing other types of research, primarily because of its normative goal of achieving sustainability through global inter-generational and intra-generational justice (Clark, 2009;

Ziegler and Ott, 2011). SS thus has dual objectives, to meet the needs of society while sustaining the life support system of the planet (Turner et al., 2003). Besides being a normative science it also features a temporal element by asserting that there is an urgency to resolve the global challenges facing the planet because ‘the search for solutions cannot wait’ as expressed by Komiyama and Takeuchi (2006). In addition, SS strives to employ multi-scalar approaches that explore the local through a global lens and vice versa.

A major distinction between the field of SS and other academic disciplines is that it is driven, and thereby also, defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines that it employs (Clark, 2007). The problem driven nature of the field also plays a role in how sustainability science research is evaluated or measured. Although scientific merit and critical contributions are important, its capacity to deliver results, recommendations and problem resolutions for achieving sustainability is said to have even more significance (Kates et al., 2001; Clark and Dickson, 2003). Thus, SS takes an integrative approach to knowledge production, whereby research transcends the concerns of its foundational disciplines in an effort to understand the complex dynamics that arise from interactions between human and environmental systems (Clark, 2007). Central queries within SS thus relate to understanding the fundamental properties of complex, adaptive human-environment systems, such as smallholder livelihoods in the Lake Victoria basin and how they relate to major transformative processes.

My choice of research topic and focus on Africa and the Lake Victoria basin more specifically, is deliberate as it is the region where the “adaptation deficit” (Osbahr 2007), i.e. the lack of explicit integration of livelihood adaptation to climate change and broader development issues, has been most evident (Tschakert and Dietrich, 2010). Consequently it is in the global south that meeting human needs in times of global environmental change poses greater challenges and urgency. Hence as a PhD candidate in Sustainability Science it is also here that my research findings may be most valuable and useful.


14 Research scope and limitations

This thesis is based on empirical data collected in primarily four rural farming communities in the LVB (See figure 1).

Figure 1. Primary and secondary study sites in the LVB (Source: ILEC, 2005)

Beside these four study sites empirical data from seven other study sites in the Mara and Nyando region have also been collected in the form of a household survey as well as episodic interviews and focus groups. The spatial scope of the study can thus be divided into two groups. One with the primary study sites: Thurdibuoro and Onjiko location in Kenya; and Kisumwa and Kunsugu ward in Tanzania (combined black and white dots in fig 1). These sites have been visited throughout the duration of the research project from 2007 to 2011, while the other, secondary study sites: N.E. Nyakach, Kolwa, Kakola in Kenya, and Rabour, Makojo, Bukimwa, Kabasa in Tanzania (black dots only in fig. 1) were only included during the first two years of research to enable me to compare and contrast between different farming communities



Kisumwa Kunsugu



to identify key features and characteristics of rural smallholder livelihoods in the LVB.

Although this research project is based on empirical data from two countries it is not a comparative study, instead this research should be seen as an exploration of the concept of adaptive capacities to climate variability and change, whereby Kenya and Tanzania represent two units of analysis within specific sites. As such I expect to find similarities between the two units while exploring the differences to further my argument about what constitutes adaptation and adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in a smallholder context in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.

This thesis is based on three stand alone articles, which can be read as a combined exploration of how smallholder farmers in the LVB live with and manage climate variability and change. The three articles all focus on farmers’ personal experiences of climate variability and change but the difference between them lies in the spatial focus and the conceptual framing of each.

Article 1 is both a comprehensive exploration of the concept of climate vulnerability and a synthesized analysis of all of the collected empirical data.

As such the article includes data both on households and communities as well as a policy review for the region as a whole.

Article 2 proceeds from the concept of communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) to identify in detail, both theoretically and empirically how collective action among organized farmers increases adaptive capacities to respond to various multiple stressors, including climate unpredictability. The article is the outcome of collaboration with a fellow PhD candidate at LUCSUS who do related studies on smallholders in Uganda.

Article 3 focuses solely on widows as agents of change in Onjiko, Kenya.

Drawing on feminist political ecology and Kabeer’s (1999) conceptualization of empowerment progression the article analyzes in-depth how widows, through increased agency, have improved their individual and collective capacity to respond to increased water uncertainty.

Finally, the ‘coat’, and particularly chapter 5, attempts to integrate the findings from each article and discuss them in relation to the implications for sustainable adaptation (Eriksen and O’Brien, 2007).



Figure 2 below gives an overview of the scope of the three articles in terms of concepts used and spatial levels studied.

Figure 2. The scope of the three articles with reference to:

spatial level and conceptual frameworks.

The limitations of this research are first and foremost linked to the complexity and variability inherent in the human-environment system that I study, where not only the actual variability in the biophysical system is unpredictable but also the parameters of the social system are in flux.

Additional limitations to this can be linked to the missing and sometimes lacking data on different local climate parameters, poverty-, health- and demography indicators which hamper abilities to explore more detailed interactions of the location specific human-environment system.






Article III AGENCY Collectives and

communities Individuals and

communities Households, communities, region



Moreover, as a major requirement of a thesis in Sustainability Science this research attempts to bridge the natural and social science divide by considering both the environmental and human dimensions of smallholder farming livelihood systems. But owing to the fact that a PhD thesis is mainly an individual task and that I have my base in the social sciences as a result of my previous academic training in anthropology and environmental studies, my abilities to integrate the natural and social dimensions of sustainability are somewhat restricted.

Structure of the thesis

This coat should be read as an introduction to the concepts used in the articles (chapter 2) as well as a more detailed account of the research approach and process including the various methods (chapter 3) employed to explore these concepts. Following this, chapter 4 gives a more detailed introduction to the specifics of the study setting and the historical and cultural context of smallholder farming. Chapter 5 includes a synthesized discussion of the study’s empirical findings and a commentary on the implications of these findings for sustainable adaptation in the LVB and Sub- Saharan Africa at large. Finally, chapter 6 identifies some of the key lessons learned from this research endeavour for sustainability science.



Figure 3. Compound elements of climate vulnerability

2. Conceptual framework

The theoretical and analytical framework(s) that the researcher uses as a departure point and as a navigating tool throughout the research process also guides the reader in his/her understanding of the core issues under study. This section presents the core concepts and terminology underlying the discussion and analysis of this thesis. The terms presented here do not follow an all-inclusive framework but rather a set of different ideas, which occasionally interlink and overlap but can also be seen individually in certain contexts. The discussion in section 5 attempts to consolidate these concepts and link them to one another in a cohesive manner.

Climate vulnerability

In the climate change literature the concepts of vulnerability, exposure, sensitivity, adaptation and adaptive capacity are highly inter-related. Their unit of analysis also ranges in scale, from the vulnerability and adaptation of an individual to the entire globe in response to a particular climate induced stressor (Smit and Wandel, 2006). Of special interest in this thesis however is the application of adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability to so called social-ecological systems or coupled human-environment systems (Turner et al., 2003; Schröter et al., 2005), including communities, households and individuals.

Vulnerability to climate change, in the simplest term, refers to the state of susceptibility to harm (Adger, 2006). This state is then typically described to be “a function of three overlapping elements (Fig.

3): exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity” (IPCC, 2001; Yohe and Tol, 2002;

Adger, 2003; Smit and Pilifosova, 2003;

Turner et al., 2003). Exposure is generally defined as the degree to which a system experiences environmental or socio-political stress (Adger, 2006).



To exemplify in the smallholder farmer context: will rainfall variability result

in more floods or droughts; will the timing of rainfall events change?

Sensitivity refers to the extent to which a system is modified or affected by such stress (IPCC, 2001). For example, how many more people are at risk of getting malaria with increased rainfall? Adaptive capacity in turn involves the ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences (IPCC, 2007). For example, what are people’s capacities to reduce the risk of attracting malaria induced by increased temperatures?

There are (at least) two distinctive camps of vulnerability research within the climate change discourse. The first, most commonly referred to as outcome vulnerability (O’Brien et al., 2007) has grown out of various risk-hazard and impact frameworks (see Fussel and Klein, 2006). It focuses on the impacts of climate change in terms of measurable units on various sectors in society.

The second, contextual or critical vulnerability, proceeds from the constructivist literature on entitlements and livelihoods frameworks (see Dreze and Sen 1991; Sen 1999; Watts and Bohle, 1993; Ribot et al., 1996;

Adger, 2006). It focuses on the variation and dynamics of vulnerability within and between social groups in society thus emphasizing aspects of inequality and distribution.

Proceeding from work by O’Brien et al. (2007), I define climate vulnerability in this thesis as the convergence of multiple climate induced stressors and outcomes, manifested as the limited ability of an individual, household or community to cope with or adapt to climate variability and/or change. This conceptualization of climate vulnerability draws on both of the vulnerability frameworks in an effort to relate exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to each other in an integrated manner, as called for by Hinkel (2011). Thus, while I see the element of adaptive capacity as taking precedence over the other two key elements of exposure and sensitivity within the concept of climate vulnerability their interaction within the couple human-environment system is highly important and only through an integrated approach can these dynamic interactions be understood (Turner et al., 2003; Schröter et al., 2005). Moreover my definition also directs attention to the idea of differential adaptive capacities that may enable or limit the capacities of certain communities, households, groups and even individuals to manage climate induced impacts and how these must be explored through the lens of



intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989); whereby different various social stratifications in society including: ethnicity, gender, age and sexuality may have to be examined to differentiate between people’s adaptive capacities to reduce climate vulnerability.


The concept of adaptation is a theoretical term that is used in the natural sciences since long. For instance, in evolutionary biology adaptation generally refers to the “development of genetic or behavioral characteristics which enable organisms or systems to cope with environmental changes in order to survive and reproduce” (Futuyama, 1979: 34). One of the more commonly used definitions for adaptation, in the climate change context, is suggested by the IPCC (2001: 982) who define adaptation as “an adjustment in human or natural systems in response to observed or expected changes in climatic stimuli and their effects and impacts in order to alleviate adverse impacts of change or take advantage of new opportunities”. Pielke (1998: 159), also in the climate context, defines adaptations as the “adjustments in individual groups and institutional behavior in order to reduce society’s vulnerability to climate”. Smit and Wandel (2006: 282) refers to adaptation in the context of human dimension of global change as “a process, action or outcome in a system (household, community, group sector, region, country) in order for the system to better cope with, manage or adjust to some changing condition, stress, hazard, risk or opportunity”. Similarly, Brooks (2003: 8) describes adaptation as “adjustments in a system’s behavior and

characteristics that enhance its ability to cope with external stress”.

A common denominator of these definitions is that adaptation is viewed as a process that involves changes in a particular system’s coping range, involving various geographical scales and social agencies (Thomas and Twyman, 2005).

These system changes take place in many forms and on various levels (Frankhauser et al., 1999). Depending on timing they can either be proactive or reactive, meaning that they are motivated by predictions of an event in the future or as a response to a started event (Klein, 1999). They can also be autonomous or planned, sometimes also referred to as private or public, depending on the actors who adapt, i.e. a household or a state agency (Smit et al., 2000). Moreover, adaptations may have different spatial scope, either local or widespread and take different forms, i.e. technological, behavioral, financial, institutional or informational (Smit et al., 2000; Wilbanks and Kates, 1999; Huq et al., 2003). Disaster preparedness, building of flood trenches and



walls or state subsidies of drought resistant crop varieties are examples of proactive and planned adaptations, while disaster recovery, emergency migration and crop diversification can be seen as reactive and autonomous adaptation on various levels (Smit and Pfilifosova, 2003). It is important to note that even though the process of coping with climate stress and adapting to climate change are highly interlinked, they are two distinct processes, distinguished primarily by timescale, days and months instead of years and decades (Smither and Smit, 1997). Hence, coping refers to actions taking place within existing structures, whereas adaptation involves changing the framework, thereby reducing the need for coping (Eriksen et al., 2005).

In this thesis, and drawing on Ellis (1998) I use the term coping to refer to involuntary mechanisms that farmers employ during periods of hardship, so that, for example, after an extreme flood or prolonged drought, or other unanticipated major setbacks, a household attempts to maintain some sort of economic and social viability to avoid falling back into deeper livelihood distress. As such my view of coping goes against the traditional definition of coping used in the disaster-risk and management literature. Here coping is defined as a set of strategic activities taken by households in a particular sequence as a response to primarily external shocks (e.g. famines) to regain its former living standard after the crises has passed (Watts, 1983; Corbett, 1988; De Waal, 1989; Rahmato, 1991, Deveraux, 1993; Curtis, 1995). A major drawback of this definition, according to Rugalema (2000) lies in the implicit assumption that households who are coping are managing well, thus limiting the capacity to explain failures in coping, i.e. in terms of failing coping outcomes and failures in selections of coping strategies. My view of coping, subsequently, does not necessarily imply a strategic set of activities or always a positive outcome.

Instead, I see adaptations as strategically employed actions, or building on Swidler (1986) a constructed chain of actions, allowed or limited by the existing social and cultural context to achieve one or several goals.

Nevertheless, in many instances the strengthening of coping, or the employment of numerous coping mechanisms, is still seen as an important way of facilitating climate adaptation, even though few studies have been conducted on how effective climate adaptation measures can build in practice on existing coping actions (Eriksen et al., 2005).


22 Adaptive capacity

Smit and Wandel (2006: 286) maintain that the linkages between the two concepts of adaptation and adaptive capacity are that “adaptations are manifestations of adaptive capacity”. In other words, adaptive capacity, in the context of climate change generally refers to the ability of countries, communities, households or even individuals to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes); to adjust to moderate potential damages; to take advantage of opportunities or to cope with the consequences (IPCC, 2001). As such adaptive capacity involves the degree to which adjustments are possible in practices, processes, or structures of systems to projected or actual changes of climate (IPCC, 2001). Using this definition identifying or measuring adaptive capacity is difficult because it is directly connected to levels of human, social, economic and political dimensions of sustainable development and various physical characteristics, including climate conditions (Reid and Vogel, 2006). To complicate things further, adaptive capacities also vary depending on context and scale, i.e. the capacity to adapt on a local scale is quite different from the capacity to adapt on a national level (Smit and Wandel, 2006). For example, in an agricultural setting strong kinship networks that absorb stress on the local level may be seen as a significant determinant of adaptive capacity, while on the national level it may be the availability of state-subsidized crop insurance, a determinant reflecting the country’s stable socio-economic and political system. But even though the capacity to adapt is context-specific and can vary between and within households of the same community the scales of adaptive capacity are not independent or separate. Certainly, they are also to some degree dependent on the enabling environment of the community, whose adaptive capacity is further reflective of the resources and processes of the region (Smit and Pilifosova, 2003; Yohe and Tol, 2002).

According to Smit and Pilifosova (2003) countries with limited economic resources, low levels of technology, poor infrastructure, information and skills, unstable or weak institutions, and inequitable empowerment and access to resources are thus seen as having low adaptive capacity. Other scholars such as Grothmann and Patt (2005), question this emphasis on financial, technical, and institutional constraints as the primary determinants of adaptive capacity, and suggest that more research on the science of decision-making may be of great importance, especially when it comes to ability for autonomous adaptation. For these reasons Adger and Vincent



(2005) argue that there is as much uncertainty in the study of adaptive capacity as there is in climate change science. What is clear though is that the forces that influence the ability of the system to adapt are also the drivers or determinants of adaptive capacity (Adger, 2003; Blaikie et al., 1994;

Kasperson and Kasperson, 2001; Wilbanks and Kates, 1999). For scientists, politicians and international donors, however, it is a challenge to identify these forces, no matter what the scale, and to understand how they interact between and within different spatial and temporal scales.

With this conceptualization as the departure point, I start my exploration of adaptive capacities to climate vulnerability by identifying the local assets or capabilities (Bebbington 1999; Scoones, 1998) and entitlements (Sen, 1981) (financial as well as social and political) that households and communities can mobilize and manage in the face of hardship. Then proceeding from Bebbington’s work on capabilities (1999), who draws on Sen (1981, 1999), in combination with Kabeer’s empirical work on empowerment progression (1999), I define adaptive capacities in this thesis as vehicles, not only to ensure instrumental action (to be able to cope/survive) but also as the means for hermeneutic action (making life meaningful) and emancipatory action (Habermas, 1971) whereby agents gain power to act and to reproduce, challenge or change the rules that govern the control, use and transformation of resources (Giddens, 1979). As such, in my perspective adaptive capacitiy, manifested in adaptation actions, is dynamic and involves three steps. First one must gain power to access those resources that enable survival. Second, one must gain power to choose the adaptation strategies that makes most sense in one’s livelihood situation. Third, one should benefit from the achievements in terms of outcomes of the chosen strategy.

Arguably then, a study on adaptive capacities that merely assesses the bundles of resources that households, individuals and/or communities hold will only offer limited transformatory significance (Kabeer, 1999) because such an analysis will ignore the processes that may constrain access to the very capacities that enable hermeneutic and emancipatory action. Following this reasoning, my conceptualization of adaptive capacity has linkages to both scholarly work on ‘chronic poverty’ (Green and Hulme, 2005) and

‘sustainable adaptation’ (see Climate and Development Vol. 3, 2011).

According to Green and Hulme (2005) what constitutes poverty is neither obvious nor universal but rather a real social experience possibly at odds with the abstract category of “the poor” imposed by the international community.



In the same way, I argue, are resource dependent communities in the global south at risk of being labelled vulnerable to climate change, despite inherent differences within and between people in one community. The emphasis on understanding chronic poverty through explorations of place-based social relations have advanced my own analysis of adaptive capacity to climate vulnerability by pushing me to examine the social relations within smallholder farmer communities. Guided by these ideas, I have attempted to identify those farmers within my study communities who persistently have limited adaptive capacities as a consequence of recurrent and limited economic and social mobility. Assisted by this approach, I was able to steer away from oversimplified statements about who is climate vulnerable and what constitutes climate vulnerability.

In addition, my conceptualization of adaptive capacity to climate variability and change is inspired by scholarly work on ‘sustainable adaptation’ (Eriksen and O’Brien 2007: 338), which attempts to examine the interface between poverty and vulnerability to climate change in an effort to identify a combined adaptation measure that contributes to social and environmental sustainability, including both social justice and environmental integrity (Eriksen et al, 2011). As such, this newer concept has great applicability to a thesis in sustainability science set in a Sub-Saharan context owing to its pronounced focus on exploring how adaptation may serve both the needs of human kind, particularly resource dependent communities in the global south, while also ensuring planetary eco-system needs in the face of climate stressors (Brown, 2011).

Sustainable adaptation

The increased attention to and funding for climate adaptation combined with the recognition that adaptation will not necessarily lead to positive long-term outcomes, but may instead cause maladaptation (Barnett and O’Neill, 2010) have triggered a discussion on the sustainability of adaptation as well as on the potential linkages and synergies between adaptation and sustainability (Eriksen et al., 2011). In turn the term ‘sustainable adaptation’ has recently been launched as a way to grapple with the intimate interactions between poverty-vulnerability-sustainability (Eriksen and O’Brien, 2007; O’Brien and Leichenko, 2007; Ulsrud et al., 2008; Climate and Development Vol. 3, 2011).

Although not yet clearly defined, sustainable adaptation refers to measures that aim to respond to both poverty and vulnerability to climate change.

Three key arguments for combining adaptation and sustainability are



highlighted in this debate. First, climate adaptation may address some of the historical insufficiencies of conventional social and economic development pathways that have led to increased environmental degradation and social inequity in the global south (Ulsrud et al., 2008). Second, people most vulnerable to climate change are simultaneously facing other multiple stressors that affect their well-being, which cannot be addressed by climate adaptation alone (Eriksen et al., 2011). Third, there is an urgency in ‘getting adaptation right’, otherwise there may be a risk of exacerbating the problem and disproportionately burdening those already most vulnerable to climate change (Barnett and O’Neill, 2010; Eriksen et al., 2011). As such, sustainable adaptation, in comparison to conventional adaptation approaches tries to incorporate both intra and inter-generational dimensions of sustainability by attempting to both reduce poverty and/or vulnerability to climate change, without compromising long-term sustainability and the ability of people and/or the environment to respond to climate change or other stressors (Brown, 2011).

According to Eriksen and O’Brien (2007) there are three major dimensions of vulnerability to climate change that are closely related to poverty, and thus well-being, here defined as having the ability to feed, clothe, and shelter yourself and your children, as well as to provide them with the health care and education necessary for avoiding poverty in the future (Okin, 2003). The first relates to the physical risks caused by various climate stressors, including extreme and gradual changes in weather (e.g. droughts, floods, frequency of storms etc.) that threaten not only human life but may also contribute to a failure to secure well-being. The second relates to the abilities of people (i.e.

their adaptive capacities) to respond to these risks. The third involves the socio-economic and environmental processes that may exacerbate risks and/or limit adaptive capacity.

By exploring these linkages Eriksen and O’Brien (2007) argue that it may be possible to identify where the factors and processes that generate both vulnerability to climate change and poverty in a specific place based setting overlap, i.e. “the factors that lead to failure to secure well-being in the context of climate related stresses” (2007: 340). It is also in this interface the opportunities to alleviate poverty through reduction of vulnerability to climate change and vice versa are supposedly found (Ulsrud et al., 2008).

Figure 4 gives a conceptual overview of the relationships between vulnerability and poverty and the area to be targeted by sustainable



adaptation measures. It should be noted here that while many poor people are also vulnerable to climate change there is no direct correlation between the two. Indeed the experiences and states of vulnerability are differentiated, and thus the size of the overlapping area of the top circle will invariably change depending upon the particular social, economic, political and environmental conditions and dynamics found in each specific setting (Eriksen et al., 2007).

Figure 4. Conceptual overview of vulnerability-poverty linkages and sustainable adaptation measures (Source: Adapted from Eriksen and O’Brien, 2007) To summarize, my conceptual framework combines the emphasis on social relations in the chronic poverty literature with the conceptualizations of:

1) Adaptive capacities as vehicles for instrumental, hermeneutic and emancipatory action,

2) Adaptation as deliberate and strategic chains of actions

3) Sustainable adaptation as policies attempting to serve both the needs of human kind, while also ensuring planetary eco-system needs in the face of climate stressors today and in the future.

As such, my framing of climate vulnerability in this thesis attempts to go beyond general explanations of its immediate causes and effects. This implies a shift away from representations of climate vulnerability as mere conditions toward a more inclusive perspective that takes into account the relations which produce those conditions as well as potential ways of improving conditions to build more sustainable livelihoods.

Vulnerability Poverty

Vulnerability reduction measures

Poverty reduction measures Poverty-

Vulnerability linkages

Sustainable adaptation measures

Social and environmental





3. Research approach and process

Doing sustainability science

A major goal in sustainability science is to understand human–environment systems as integrated (coupled) rather than separate or even separable entities (Schröter et al., 2005; Clark, 2007, Kates et al., 2001). Accordingly, advancing this understanding requires interdisciplinary research whereby all, or at least many, aspects of environment-society relations are explored (Ziegler and Ott, 2011). Subsequently, sustainability scientists are required to draw upon a wide range of research areas and tools from both the social and the natural sciences, including but not limited to, complex systems theory, cultural and political ecology, scenario making techniques and coupled modelling (Clark, 2007; Ziegler and Ott, 2011). This does not imply, however, that every piece of research, or a thesis like this, must employ all such tools simultaneously.

Another major distinction between SS and other research fields relates to the inclusion of non-scientist into the research process. By acknowledging that HES are complex and continuously in flux, we draw upon many different ways of knowing and learning in SS, whereby the inclusion of non-scientists opens up the possibility to consider local and tacit knowledge (Kates et al., 2001).

Involving non-scientist, or in my case, smallholder farmers and others working directly with farmers, opens SS to relevant, significant and contingent knowledge about the local context. It also facilitates problem formulation and helps in contextualizing knowledge application, which arguably may contribute to the normative goals of SS by improving viable policy and implementation outcomes (Ziegler and Ott, 2011). For these reasons SS is neither ’basic’ nor ‘applied’ science but rather a ’use-inspired basic research’ field (Clark and Levin, 2010: 88).

My attempt to apply a sustainability science approach in my research has not always been easy and straightforward. First of all, my research process has been affected by the fact that I had no previous knowledge or experience from the African continent before embarking on this research journey.

Hence, my first encounter with Kenya was in November 2006 when I attended the UNFCCC COP 14 meeting in Nairobi and with Tanzania in September of 2007 during my first fieldwork.



Moreover, as mentioned in the introduction we are all biased towards our academic history and this tends to color our ways of doing and thinking about research, whether we are conscious of it or not. In my case, this has influenced how I collect my data, which in turn affect what I am able to see in my data. Moreover my past experiences also influence what I can see, or as Kathy Charmaz (2006: 15) aptly puts it;

We are not scientific observers who can dismiss scrutiny of our values by claiming scientific neutrality and authority [...] researchers are obligated to be reflexive about what we bring to the scene, what we see, and how we see it.

So too are sustainability scientists’ responsible for reflecting on their own research process and outcomes (Kates, 2011).

Research design and strategy

This research project mainly relies on qualitatively collected data from various types of individual and group interviews. But it also includes certain crucial quantitative information such as data from a household survey and local rainfall data. Consequently, the study is firmly rooted in an interpretative research epistemology (Mikkelsen, 2005). Primarily I proceed from the study subjects’ knowledge and experience (here smallholder farmers) to induce and generate conceptual tools that are used to interpret and structure the empirical data in an iterative process. As such, the study is predominately, but not exclusively, based on a qualitative research methodology where I seek to understand and explain the reasons for and the dynamics of the phenomenon under study (Flick, 2006), namely climate vulnerability, rather than measuring or quantifying the existence of it.

Accordingly all participating respondents were selected purposively (Flick, 2006), i.e. based on who would have the most to contribute for the topic to be discussed, and then theoretically (Charmaz, 2006) as the analysis progressed according to their (expected) level of new insight for the development of the concepts investigated.

Throughout the research project a great emphasis has been placed on including and having smallholder farmers themselves participate in as many aspects of the research project as possible. Not only has this given me the opportunity to test, evaluate and verify empirical findings along the way but it has also enhanced the iterative process (Chambers, 2008) by allowing me to revise the empirical data throughout the duration of the project.



Moreover the inclusion of local stakeholders, beyond smallholders, has facilitated my problem formulation and assisted me in contextualizing empirical findings, and thereby improving my understanding and potentially the applicability of my research conclusions.

Participation however, requires trust and in order to build that trust I deliberately decided to return to the same households and community groups again and again. Accordingly my sample size is quite small, but by interviewing the same farmers several times in various different ways and with different focus every time, I have instead been able to revisit crucial issues and questions, thereby allowing for ‘unexpected’ findings (Chambers, 2008). This hopefully has made my contextual account of climate vulnerability more detailed and integrated.

Table 1 below summarizes the data collection strategy of the entire research project, including different fieldwork periods and methods utilized.

Table 1 – DATA COLLECTION STRATEGY 2007-2011 Field work periods Methods used

Pre-study 2 weeks November 2006

Informal Interviews 1. Sept and Oct 2007

2 months

Semi-structured interviews Exploratory household survey

2. Oct and Nov 2008 2 months

Informal open-ended interviews Narrative walks Episodic interviews Focus Group Discussions Collecting of precipitation data

3. September 2009 2 weeks

Interactive seasonal calendars Focus Group Discussions Informal open-ended interviews Collecting of precipitation data 4. January 2010

2 weeks

Multi-stakeholder workshop Focus Group Discussions Informal open-ended interviews

5. January 2011 3 weeks

Focus group discussions

Informal open-ended interviews


30 Fieldwork methods

The bulk of data upon which this thesis is based thus comes from the different types of interviews I have conducted, with smallholders, local politicians and stakeholders from within and outside the community as well as so called ‘experts’ in the field (i.e. scholars, development practitioners etc). The most valuable empirical data in the study obviously comes from the farmers themselves, since it is their lived experience and interpretation of climate vulnerability that is the main focus of the research. Most of the interviews and focus group discussions with farmers were conducted in local dialects, with the assistance of a locally hired translator versed in the specific dialects required for each country. The information provided by the interviewees were translated directly during the interview, tape-recorded and later transcribed verbatim on my lap-top computer for further analysis.

Dependency on different translators has however inhibited my capabilities of

‘reading’ the cultural landscape of daily life in the LVB. It may also have affected some interview outcomes, because of whom and also where the translator originated from, if it was a woman or a man or if she/he came from the city or a village nearby. Moreover, at times, due to timing and availability, there was a lack of consistency in the use of translators for certain tasks at different junctures in the research process. This may also have affected the depth of the interviews, because of lacking trust or misinterpretations. All in all I recruited six different translators, three in each country. Two of them were recruited several times, both because they were good at what they did but also because they were genuinely interested in the topic.

Another important source of information for advancing my fieldwork comes from the numerous informal conversations I have had with people, while sharing a meal in a restaurant, shopping in the local market or during transport between different houses or communities. By acknowledging the virtue of taking it slow and easy (pole pole) and relearning the value of having these casual conversations with people I have been able to gain valuable insights on the ‘subtleties’ of local norms and culture in the basin.

Information that later have assisted me tremendously when attempting to disentangle and analyse people’s answers and actual behavior.

My first meeting with rural locals in Kenya and Tanzania involved a great deal of outspoken curiosity about me as a person and how my presence in their community could aid in some way. This ‘expectation’ made it crucial, early on



in the fieldwork, to explain, not only the purposes of my research but also its limitations in order to build trust and prevent disappointment about participation in the research and the potential outcomes for them. On the positive side this keen interest has sparked a great deal of fascinating discussions, as well as some misunderstandings, primarily linked to variations in social norms. Of special interests to people is my lack of tribal kinship and religious affiliation, my vegetarianism, and the contrasting gendered responsibilities that my husband (who often accompanies me in the field) and I often display in the communities, whereby he assumes the primary parenting role for our daughter and I assume the professional researcher‘s role. Although these differences between ‘me’ and ‘them’ at a first glance may appear impossible to overcome, the presence of my family has actually helped in closing that gap by showing farmers that I too am like them, i.e.

first and foremost a parent wanting to provide for my family. I believe that this knowledge about my person has made it easier for me to gain people’s trust and honesty in the interview situation, especially from women.

Returning and re-visiting the same communities, and even most households, every year from 2007 to 2011 has also aided in sustaining that trust with participating farmers. By making a point of reiterating what we did last time we saw each other and disseminating some of my initial analysis at each revisit I have also attempted to make it easier for the participating farmers to feel included into the research process (Chambers, 2008).

A huge advantage for me in doing fieldwork in this region is related to my affiliation with a well-known, established and respected non-governmental organization (NGO) in the basin, VI-Agroforestry, who assisted me in getting in contact with local leaders, other key actors in the communities as well as facilitating my transportation needs between the two countries. Upon entry into the communities, this affiliation made it possible for me to gather community members to introduce myself, my research agenda as well as get an insight into problems confronting the farmers in each community. In the course of these meetings, I was then able to identify with guidance of community leaders and VI-Agroforestry staff, respondents for my initial interviews as well as groups of farmers willing to participate in the first round of focus group discussions.


32 Interviews

For me as a researcher the purpose of conducting an interview is naturally to gather data. With that in mind I also have to acknowledge that interviews, to an extent also are interventions (Patton, 1990), because the conversation I engage in and the questions I ask will inevitably affect those that I talk to.

During some of the interviews the intervention element became quite obvious, especially those interviews conducted one-on-one, without an interpreter and relating to topics that involved personal tragedies, such as becoming a widow, living with HIV, social exclusion, facing hunger or domestic violence. These interviews were powerful both for me and my respondents and in no way would they have been possible without a mutual understanding and respect for one another.

Semi-structured interviews

In order to get an overview of key problems and challenges of the region as a whole in relation to predicted climate change, its potential impacts on smallholders’ in the LVB and existing response strategies I had to begin my research journey with interviewing key informants. The respondents in these semi-structured interviews came from various universities, research institutions, international NGO’s and development agencies familiar with the geographical context and/or the concepts under study (e.g. UNEP, Sida, CARE, ILRI, ICRAF, CEEST, ACTS, University of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam respectively). Building on this knowledge and a few open-ended interviews with randomly sampled farmers in Nyanza and Mara I then constructed and designed my household questionnaire.

Exploratory household survey

The purpose of the baseline household survey (EHS) was to explore current livelihood conditions by examining demographics, livelihood activities and assets, agroforestry practices, experienced changes in weather, impacts of droughts and floods on household security, coping mechanisms after flood and drought and type of assistance from the outside. The study communities were selected on the basis of their susceptibility to floods and/or drought and subsequent households were sampled randomly within these locations based on their willingness to participate. I designed the format of the survey with input from VI-Agroforestry, familiar with carrying out similar surveys among farmers. Due to high illiteracy in the area and poor local language skills on my part I recruited four field assistants, well versed in the local



dialects, to assist me in conducting the survey interviews. In every country I first piloted the survey questionnaire on ten households in a village outside of my study area before commencing the actual survey. These pilot survey interviews were conducted together with the selected field assistants to observe them in action and see what types of problems that could emerge.

The EHS questionnaire (see Appendix 1) was then revised to eliminate and avoid asking questions that proved either unnecessary or could be misunderstood by respondents.

The survey covering 600 farming households in 11 locations across Mara and Nyanza (Fig. 1) took six weeks per country to complete (approximately 10 HH were interviewed per day) and this was conducted concurrently during four weeks in both countries after I had piloted the study in one country first and then the other. Everyone in a household was allowed to respond to the questions asked. Hence, the duration of each survey interview ranged between 30 to 60 minutes depending on how much discussion each question incited. The survey was also designed in such a way as to give respondents the opportunity to tick more than one answer to many of the questions asked. That made the questionnaire much more open-ended and qualitative in style.

I only participated in approximately 20 of the total 600 survey interviews, primarily because of the inhibitions that my presence could possibly cause but also due to the remoteness of some communities, which constrained transportation options. And since I was five months pregnant at the time and had limited experience with driving a motorcycle I decided that it was not worth the risk.

Narrative walks

During the fieldwork period in 2008 I conducted four ‘narrative walks’

(Olsson and Jerneck, 2010) with location chiefs/ward executive officers from the four locations/wards selected as the primary study sites. These walks had the purpose of constructing ‘cross-sectional maps or diagrams’ (Mikkelsen, 2005: 90) of the specific local setting. Included in these ‘maps’ where landscape characteristics, the whereabouts of certain livelihood activities in the village and location and availability of specific natural resources used by households. These maps also included spatially marked problem areas in the village (e.g. flood prone and deforested areas, extensive gullies) and discussions on what type of interventions that has taken place to deal with




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